MIAMI Imagine what a story it wouldve made.
The Giants ushered Miami Marlins closer Heath Bell from thegame in the ninth inning Friday night, they advanced the tying run to third base and MelkyCabrera, the major league leader in hits, was coming to the plate.
The Marlins infield met on the mound. Clearly, they were going topitch carefully to the NLs hottest hitter.
And the man on deck? None other than Buster Posey, facingthe Marlins one year to the day that Scott Cousins took him out.
You could envision Posey, his jaw locked, sending a ballover the fence and rounding the bases, expressionless as a contract killer. Itwouldve been one heck of a story. And it might have helped the Giants fret alittle less over Tim Lincecums troubles for a night.
But Posey did not get past the on-deck circle. Marlinsright-hander Steve Cishek stole a first-pitch strike against Cabrera, he ranthe count full, and then he dropped down to throw a gutsy slider that triggeredthe fist of plate umpire Mike Winters.
The Giants lost 7-6, and one-run defeats are like rabbitholes for managers. There are so many moments in the game to tumble around in your head, somany mistakes or missed opportunities that became turning points.
We were awful tonight, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.Errors and baserunning came back to haunt us, as they should. Those thingsshouldnt happen on the field.
During his session, Bochy wasnt specific about the baserunning issues. I onlycounted two possibilities: In the second inning, when Aubrey Huff trotted outof the box and coasted into first base on his near-homer-turned single; and inthe third, when Brandon Crawford got thrown out trying to go from first tothird on Angel Pagans two-out hit.
Not wanting to make assumptions, I circled back to ask. Bochy said yes, he was referring to those two plays.
Huff said he just lost track of what happened, Bochy said.He didnt see where the ball went.
And because Joaquin Arias followed with a double-playgrounder, Huffs failure to get to second base proved damaging. Sure,Pagan had to hold up between first and second to see if the ball would becaught. But Pagan had gone more than halfway. There was no reason Huff couldnt havebeen right behind him. If the balls caught, hes out anyway. (Paganstill made it to third base, by the way.)
Managers often say they dont have a problem with playerswho make aggressive mistakes. But Bochy seemed to be more bothered byCrawfords attempt to take third. Both Tim Flannery and Roberto Kelly tookCrawford aside after the game, telling him he cant get thrown out at thirdbase with two outs. He already was in scoring position, they said, and its notlike he can come home on a two-out sacrifice fly.
We cant make those kinds of mistakes, Bochy said.
Its important to play smart. But its even more importantto play hard, isnt it?
Pablo Sandoval is coming along in his rehab from left handsurgery. He began swinging a fungo bat right-handed on Friday, but Bochy saidthe third baseman is still two weeks away from returning.
Hes getting better, Bochy said. Were probably lookingat a couple weeks if there is no setbacks, which is good news for us.
Sandoval had been the teams No. 3 hitter, but Bochy said heplans to keep Melky Cabrera in that spot. No wonder. Cabrera homered andtripled, adding to his MLB-best 69 hits. He has 42 of them in May with fivegames to play and hes nine short of the San Francisco-era record for hits in amonth, which Randy Winn established with a 51-hit performance in September, 2005.
Bochy said he might put Sandoval in the No. 5 spot and moveAngel Pagan up to second, even though Pagan also has taken well to that placein the order. Sandoval wont bat sixth or lower, Bochy said.
Hes too good a hitter, the manager said.
Heres one other variable that will affect what the Giantsdo: Crawfords performance in the No. 2 slot. Hes definitely getting betterpitches and having better at-bats since Bochy tried him in that slot. But itshard to imagine the Giants keeping him there when they have a betteralternative.
Oh, and in case its not obvious the fact Bochy is talkingabout moving Pagan to the No. 2 slot should make it very apparent that GregorBlanco has become the everyday leadoff man and outfielder for this team.